It’s time for the scientific community to admit we got it wrong about COVID, and it’s costing lives
As a medical student and researcher, I have strongly supported the efforts of public health authorities regarding COVID-19. I thought the authorities responded to the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime with compassion, diligence and scientific expertise. I was with them when they called for lockdowns, vaccinations and reinforcements.
I was wrong. we , we were wrong in the scientific community. And it costs lives.
Now I see that the scientific community, from the CDC to the WHO to the FDA and their representatives, have repeatedly exaggerated the evidence and misled the public about their views and policies, including natural or artificial immunity, school closures, and disease transmission. , spread of aerosols , mask mandates, and the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, especially among young people. All these errors were scientific on time , not retrospectively. Surprisingly, some of these confusions persist to this day.
But perhaps more important than any individual error was how flawed the general approach of the scientific community was, and continues to be. It was flawed in ways that undermined its effectiveness and resulted in thousands, if not millions, of preventable deaths.
What we don’t fully understand is that preferences determine how scientific expertise is used, and that our choices may actually be our choices. was- very different from most of the people we serve. we created a policy based on our preferences, then substantiated it with data. And then we made those who opposed our efforts to be misguided, ignorant, selfish and evil people.
We’ve turned science into a team sport, and by doing so, we’ve made it no longer a science. We turned against them, and “they” responded in the only way you’d expect them to: by fighting back.
We have excluded significant sections of the population from policy-making and critical critics, meaning we have created a monolithic response in a nation of exceptional diversity, created a more fragmented society than ever before, and exacerbated health and economic inequalities for a long time.
Our emotional response and entrenched partisanship have prevented us from seeing the full impact of our actions on the people we are supposed to serve. We have systematically reduced the harms of the interventions we have implemented—implemented without the participation, consent, or acknowledgment of those forced to live with them. In doing so, we have eroded the autonomy of those most adversely affected by our policies: the poor, the working class, small business owners, blacks and Latinos, and children. These populations have been ignored because they have been systematically excluded from the omniscient dominant and corporate media machine and rendered invisible to us.
Most of us have not spoken up to support alternative views, and many of us have tried to suppress them. Strong scientific voices such as world-renowned Stanford professors John Ioannidis, Jay Bhattacharya and Scott Atlas or University of California professors Vinay Prasad and Monica Gandhi have been roundly condemned by merciless mobs of critics when sensitive communities have sounded the alarm. and those who criticize the scientific community, often not based on facts, but only on differing scientific opinions.
When former President Trump pointed out the downsides of the intervention, he was dismissed as outspoken. When Dr. Anthony Fauci stood up to Trump and became a hero to the public health community, we gave him our support to do what he wanted, even when he was wrong.
Neither was Trump remotely perfect, nor were the academic critics of consensus politics. But our contempt for them has been a disaster for public confidence in the response to the pandemic. Our approach alienated large sections of the population from the joint national project.
And we paid the price. The anger of those marginalized by the expert class exploded and dominated social media. Lacking the scientific lexicon to express their opposition, many dissenters have turned to conspiracy theories and the cottage industry of scientific contortionists to make their case against the expert class consensus that dominates the pandemic’s mainstream. . Calling the speech “misinformation” and blaming it on “scientific illiteracy” and “ignorance,” the government aggressively conspired with Big Tech to suppress it to assuage the legitimate political concerns of government opponents.
And it was created by a razor-thin slice of American society anointed to lead the working class on pandemic policy—members of academia, government, medicine, journalism, technology, and public health, highly educated and privileged. From the comfort of their privileges, these elites value paternalism in contrast to ordinary Americans, who advocate self-reliance and whose daily lives regularly require consideration of risk. It is dishonest of many of our leaders to ignore the experiences of those on the other side of the class divide.
Unintelligible to us because of this class divide, we have harshly judged the critics of lock-in as lazy, backward, even evil. We called those who represented their interests “fraudsters”. We believed that “misinformation” energized the ignorant and refused to accept that these people simply had a different point of view. is reliable.
We made policies without consulting the people. If our public health officials had led with less modesty, the course of the pandemic in the United States could have turned out very differently, and fewer lives could have been lost.
Instead, we have witnessed massive and sustained loss of life in America due to lack of trust in vaccines and the health care system; the massive concentration of wealth by already wealthy elites; an increase in suicides and gun violence, especially among the poor; nearly doubling rates of depression and anxiety disorders, especially among young adults; catastrophic loss of educational attainment among already disadvantaged children; and a massive loss of trust among the most vulnerable in health care, science, scientific authority and, more broadly, political leaders.
My motivation for writing this is simple: it is clear to me that in order to restore public faith in science, scientists must openly discuss what went right, what went wrong, and where we can do better during the pandemic.
It’s okay to make mistakes and admit where you went wrong and what you learned. It is the central element of the activity of science. However, I fear that many are too entrenched in groupthink – and too afraid to take responsibility publicly – to do so.
Addressing these long-term challenges requires a greater commitment to pluralism and tolerance in our institutions, including the inclusion of critical but unpopular voices.
Intellectual elitism, credentialism and classism must end. Restoring confidence in the health of the people and our democracy depends on it.
Kevin Bass is a medical/doctoral student at a medical school in Texas. He is in year 7.